Jet diplomacy: US approves fighter sales to both Greece and Turkey

U.S. Air Force photo

The United States Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has authorized the sale of fighter jets to Greece and Turkey. Greece is set to acquire 40 Lockheed Martin F-35A fifth-generation fighters for about $8.6 billion, while Turkey is in line to purchase 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper fighter jets along with other equipment for around $23 billion. 

For Greece, the deal aims to modernize its air force and enhance its defense capabilities. However, the final agreement may only involve some of the 40 F-35A jets, as Greece initially planned to order between 18 and 24, in addition to 24 Rafale fighters acquired from France.  

In the case of Turkey, the purchase of F-16 Viper jets is seen as compensation for being excluded from the F-35 program in 2019. At the time, the US scrapped a Turkish order for more than 100 F-35 stealth fighter jets as a consequence of its controversial purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system. The US Congress is yet to fully approve the sales, with some members still expressing concerns about Turkey’s actions toward Greece and Syrian Kurds, both US allies. 

The DSCA recommended the sales, stating that they would strengthen the air forces of both countries, contribute to NATO missions, and maintain regional security. The F-16 Viper and F-35A Lightning II are expected to provide modern and upgraded capabilities to the respective air forces. 

An order hinged on Sweden’s NATO membership

These sales were approved after Turkey fulfilled a political condition set by the US, namely allowing Sweden to join NATO. Sweden applied to join NATO in May 2022. However, NATO member Turkey withheld its backing, officially accusing Sweden of sponsoring anti-Turkish Kurdish organizations and political dissidents. The Nordic country’s NATO membership bid was eventually approved by the Turkish parliament on January 23, 2024. 

Turkey is also developing an indigenous 5th generation fighter jet, with the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) KAAN.

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